Salesforce.com Offends the Dalai Lama (ooh, that's bad karma)
August 29, 2003. Gorilla marketer salesforce.com clearly showed that when it comes to public relations, garnering free publicity and shameless commercialism, there is no line that cannot be crossed. The company inserted a large image of his holiness and mass produced a salesforce.com poster in order to celebrate reaching the 100,000 user subscription mark. Just above the picture of a praying Dalai Lama was the company logo, the phrase "There is no software on the path to enlightenment" and the line "Salesforce.com celebrates 100,000 enlightened Salesforce.com subscribers." The posters were sent out as invitations to staff and press members for a September 5 event at San Francisco's Davies Symphony Hall.
Unfortunately, His Holiness had no knowledge of being made the salesforce.com pitchman. As no permission for such a blatant marketing promotion was acquired from the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan community and the American Himalayan Foundation had a cow when they were routed with the marketing prop. CEO Marc Benioff later made a public apology in a letter that seemed to increase the media exposure even further. Benioff wrote "We had no right to suggest that either the American Himalayan Foundation or His Holiness support us"... "We made a mistake. For any harm done to the reputations of both His Holiness and the American Himalayan Foundation, we apologize."
This wasn't Salesforce.com's first attempt to link its corporate image to Tibetan causes. In February 2003, Salesforce.com hosted a benefit concert in New York for Tibet House that included posters displaying Tibet's Potala Palace with the company's "no software" logo in the horizon.
According to company spokeswoman Caryn Marooney, the company hadn't ruled out using Tibetan imagery in conjunction with the Salesforce.com logo in the future, but, she indicated that the company intended to better communicate with the Tibetan community. "We just need to listen to the groups that we work with and make sure we're a good partner" said Marooney.